Cross country skiing is skiing in the non-alpine area. It means skiing on any surface with a layer of snow that is thick enough to handle skiing. It typically occurs in winter and early spring and can be carried out on the flat ground or slightly sloppy terrain.

The sport originated from skiing for transportation purposes used in the olden days to move from one point to the next. The reason being other modes of transport were not feasible during winter. Today, cross country skiing is mostly done for recreation and a competitive sport. However, some heavy snow territories still use it as a mode of transport.

Why is it called cross country skiing?

Cross country skiing does not mean skiing across countries; instead, skiing across open fields, pastures, and other open terrains. As is the case in most rural areas and as it was in the olden days.

Is cross country skiing hard?

Not really. Just like alpine skiing, cross country skiing engages multiple muscles at the same time. This requires muscular strength as you use your body to propel yourself forward, unlike alpine skiing, which takes advantage of the skiing terrain’s hilly nature. Skill is also required, but it is easier to master cross country skiing.

It is easier to get a professional cross country skier to teach you the basics. You can also use online training tutorials to learn how to handle the poles and the correct form. Alternatively, you can learn on your own through practice.

What muscles do you use cross country skiing?

Cross country skiing engages shoulder muscles, triceps, leg muscles, gluteus Maximus, back muscles, and your core muscles (such as the pectoralis major, deltoids, and latissimus dorsi muscles). It is pretty much a full-body workout, not to mention the cardiovascular benefits.

Is cross country skiing safe?

Yes. On account of the self-propelling aspect, cross country skiing is safer than alpine skiing which makes it a good option if you want to ski while pregnant. This is because your speed is self-determined, while in alpine skiing, acceleration is partially determined by the slope’s gradient.

The most significant risk is from falling or crashing into objects, but the impact will be less deadly than falling from an alp. You stand a better chance with the right skills and protective gear than a self-taught cross country skier.

An experienced skier or instructor will teach you the right technique for pushing off, braking, gliding, and breaking a fall. Fortunately, some introductory cross-country skiing courses are relatively affordable.

How to prepare for cross country skiing?

As with any other strenuous sport, you may need to prepare by exercising to ensure you can handle the sport’s vigorous nature. To be physically fit for the sport, start exercising in summer or autumn.

To prepare, you can start jogging, cycling, and other endurance sports to enhance your cardiovascular capabilities. This will make it easier for you to ski without having to stop to catch your breath. You should also perform balance exercises such as powerwalking with poles and inline skating.

You can also use special ski rollers to recreate cross country skating or use regular sakes to work on your skiing form and technique. Strength training will also help to develop your muscle groups. Lastly, it would help if you always stretched to ensure your muscles are flexible during cross country skiing season.

How to Dress for Cross Country Skiing

The key is to dress warm enough without getting too warm. You should ensure that you do not feel cold and not too warm either.  To do this, you will need to layer several pieces of clothing. Opt for breathable sportswear that will allow you to stay warm without being covered in sweat.

What is the best fabric for cross country clothing?

Avoid cotton clothing as they absorb moisture, which will freeze, causing you to feel cold.

You should wear comfortable clothing that is roomy to allow you to ski comfortably. Carry extra clothing items in case you feel cold, especially when you stop, as it is easier to stay toasty while in motion than when you are stagnant.

Most of your cold-weather clothing can also be used for cross country skiing. Or rather, the less bulky ones as you do not need to be lugging around extra unnecessary weight as you ski. Synthetic clothing is ideal as most of them are lighter than natural fabrics, do not retain moisture, are fast drying, and breathable.

Polyester fabric is an excellent option for inner layering options. And you probably own some clothing times made from polyester.  Invest in high-quality socks made from merino wool as it itch-free and do not develop odors.

Layering successfully for cross country skiing

Upper bodywear at least three layers of clothing;

  • A shirt or lightweight sweater
  • A medium-weight jacket with a fleece lining
  • And a breathable outerwear coat that has wind breaking capabilities

Lower body

  • Look for good quality underwear that gives you the flexibility needed to ski.
  • Invest in good quality thermal tights covered in a protective outer shell
  • Or wear high-quality sports pants designed for winter sports.

Check out this comprehensive guide we did on how to layer for skiing to get a more detailed guide.

You will also need heavy-duty socks, high-quality ski gloves, a helmet, goggles, and a toque. Here is some of our recommended skiing gear

Skiing boots

Boots are the first protection shell for your feet. They keep the snow out and also add some structural support to your feet making it less grueling to move around on your skis

Skiing socks

Socks are a great way to insulate your feet and keep frostbite away. Even though the best boots for skiing have some protection, an extra layer of socks will keep your feet nice and warm throughout the trip.

Pants

Your pants should be a source of warmth that doesn’t necessarily suffocate you. They should be flexible, comfortable, and well-fitting. You can achieve this by wearing them in two layers.

Thermal pants

Ski pants

Jacket

Jackets sit at the very outside of your upper body layer. They keep the majority of the draught away and are also great at keeping your inner layers dry. Go for something warm and waterproof but don’t sacrifice mobility. Some good options include:

Skiing Goggles

You can’t go the entire distance without protecting your eyes from the constant snow glare. Goggles are a great way to keep the rest of the face warm while preserving your vision.

Gloves

Since your arms will have a constant grip on those skiing poles, you are bound to get some blisters and stiff fingers if you don’t protect your hands well. Gloves will play this role fine. Some of the best gloves for cross country skiing include:

Helmet

Finally, you can protect your head from any injuries by wearing a protective helmet. Even though you might not hit the high speeds experienced when tearing down a steep slope, you can still be going fast enough to injure your head should you take a tumble. A helmet reduces such an outcome to the bare minimum.

What are the best cross country skis?

Opt for a comprehensive cross country ski package that comes with all the additional accessories needed. This will make it easier and cheaper to shop for your cross country skis. Below are the best cross country ski packages in the market.

Whitewoods Adult NNN Cross Country Ski Package

Whitewoods Adult NNN Cross Country Ski Package

The Whitewoods cross country skis feature laminated wood core, lightweight cap construction, powder tip, aluminum tail protector, and a machined negative waxless base. The ski package also comes with Rottafella NNN Bindings that are already mounted on the skis and Fiberglass Cross Country Ski Poles with straps on the handles and ski baskets.

The skis are 197 cm in length and are designed for skiers weighing between 151-180lbs.

The boots are made from King Tex fabric that is incredibly waterproof, windproof, breathable, and durable. They are also compatible with any standard NNN binding system. They also feature Thinsulate Insulation, an improved anatomic footbed, comfortable heel counter, and toe box, composite midsole, waterproof and breathable upper, and a soft and flexible padded ankle for comfort and keeping the snow out.

Features

  • Laminated wood core
  • Lightweight cap construction
  • Powder tip
  • Aluminum tail protector
  • Negative waxless base
  • Soft and flexible padded ankle
  • Composite midsole
  • Gaitor D ring
  • Thinsulate lined
  • Rottafella NNN Bindings
  • Fiberglass Cross Country Ski Poles

Pros

  • Waterproof
  • Durable
  • Improved anatomic footbed
  • Comfortable heel counter and toe box
  • Quick-dry lining
  • Waterproof and breathable upper

Cons

  • Not ideal for heavy skiers

Rossignol Evo Glade 59AR Cut IFP XC Skis

Rossignol Evo Glade 59AR Cut IFP XC Skis

These ski bindings are designed for entry-level skiers at an affordable acquisition point. They feature smaller, more accessible sizes for increased maneuverability and control. The waxless AR Plus bases provide a good blend of grip and glide with no prep. They are compatible with the new Turnamic binding system for the most natural ski flex and snow feel.

They also feature lacquered sidewalls, an IFP plate, a double-cut base tuning, and a wooden core. The skis are also lightweight making them more comfortable for beginners.

Features

  • Sidecuts dimensions (mm): 61/55/60
  • Ski Core: Wood
  • Ski construction: Laquered sidewalls
  • Plate: IFP
  • Base: Double Cut
  • Shape: 59/50/53
  • Weight (1/2 pair): 921 g @ 186cm

Pros

  • Increased maneuverability and control.
  • Provides optimal grip and glide
  • Natural ski flex and snow feel

Cons

  • Not ideal for advanced skiers

Fischer Spider 62 Crown Cross Country Ski

Fischer Spider 62 Crown Cross Country Ski

The Fischer skis are ideal for experienced cross country skiers looking for both on-the-groom and off-trail performance. They feature and curved tip rocker that stays above the snow while the arched underfoot delivers excellent propulsion and kick. The full-length steel edges give you grip when you are traversing across a steep slope or need to make a short downhiller.

The skis have a waxless base that is low maintenance and glides nicely in any snow condition without any waxing required. The metal edges provide maximum control and stopping power. And the progressive-depth Offtrack Crown waxless pattern provides optimal grip and glide when skiing in a wide range of snow conditions.

Features

  • Full-length steel edges
  • Recommended Skier Weight: 220 and over pounds
  • Base: Waxless
  • Weight (Pair): 4 lb. 6.4 oz. (179cm with bindings)
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Progressive-depth Offtrack Crown waxless pattern
  • Air Tec cores: air-channeled wood

Pros

  • Maximum control and stopping power
  • Optimal grip and glide
  • Wide range of snow conditions
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Compatible with TURNAMIC, NNN®, and Prolink® touring and race boot soles

 Cons

  • Bindings are not included.

Fischer Traverse 78 Crown Cross Country Ski

fischer traverse 78 crown cross country ski

These Fischer crown cross country skis feature full-length metal edges for added control and security. The Nordic Rocker Camber opens up the tip to assist in turning. And the Air Tec wood core enables the skis to be tough, durable, and lightweight.

The skis have an easy Skin quick attachment system to augment uphill grip that is sold separately. The pattern grip base has a balance of grip and glides efficiency on hilly terrains.

Features

  • Full-length metal edges
  • Air Tec wood
  • Pattern grip base

Pros

  • Increased control and security
  • Tough
  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Optimal balance of grip and glide efficiency

Cons

  • You need to buy the bindings separately.

Is cross country skiing a good workout?

Yes. It provides a wide range of physical and mental benefits. Chief among them being cardiovascular health benefits due to increased blood pumping. Full body muscle engagement also helps to build muscles and while burning calories. This may lead to weight loss and improved fitness.

Skiing is also a great way to unwind, which leads to stress relief. The release of dopamine also helps to reduce stress. Not to mention the sport’s social aspect, which allows you to engage and bond with your family and friends.

Do I need special boots for cross country skiing?

Not necessarily. While you can still ski with your regular broken in ski boots, skiing boots designed for cross country skiing would be an added advantage for several reasons. For starters, they are more comfortable than ski boots designed for downhill skiing boots. They have a similar design to running shoes, and they usually feature a low cut ankle for making it easier to turn while cross country skiing.

Here are some of the best cross country skiing boots money can buy.

1a. Alpina T10 Eve Cross Country Ski Boots

Alpina T10 Eve Cross Country Ski Boots

These cross country ski boots feature Thinsulate insulation for added warmth. They have a Neoprene zippered lace cover that protects the laces from ice and snow.

The Anatomical footbed supports your foot for all-day skiing comfort. And the Rottefella NNN T4 sole is compatible with NNN, Turnamic, and Prolink bindings.

The boots are designed to provide sufficient support for moderate skiing terrain. They have a soft flex and generous fit to enable you to wiggle your toes even when wearing thick socks. The skate-inspired hinged cuff with a power strap doesn’t restrict forward motion, and it also provides excellent ankle support. Lastly, the Soft synthetic Leather upper is extremely durable.

Features

  • Thinsulate insulation adds warmth
  • Neoprene zippered lace cover
  • Anatomical footbed
  • Skate-inspired hinged cuff
  • Power strap
  • Soft synthetic leather upper

Pros

  • Compatible with NNN, Turnamic, and Prolink bindings
  • Durable
  • Excellent ankle support

Cons

  • Not ideal for narrow feet

Rossignol XC-5 Men’s XC Ski Boots

Rossignol XC-5 Men's XC Ski Boots

The Rossignol ski boots feature mobile cuffs that help with controlled strides and consistent movements while providing natural stride motions. The Polyester Thermo Adjustable Fit is lined with a plush polyester lining and will form on your foot after your body temperature rises.

The PVC Lace Covering adds durability and can withstand abuse while keeping laces free of snow and water. This helps to protect your feet and prolong the longevity of the boots. The boots also feature an adjustable strap that allows your foot to stay in place inside the boot for additional controlled steering and precision.

Features

  • Lining: Polyester
  • Construction lower: PVC
  • Lacing system: laces
  • Lace cover: PVC
  • Construction upper cuff: 3D injection high cuff free support

Pros

  • Adjustable fit
  • Plush polyester lining
  • Warranty: one year

Cons

  • Not ideal for beginners

Whitewoods New Adult 302 NNN Nordic Cross Country XC Insulated Ski Boots

Whitewoods New Adult 302 NNN Nordic Cross Country XC Insulated Ski Boots

The Whitewoods cross-country boots are compatible work with any standard NNN binding system. They feature 100 grams of Thinsulate lining that is quick drying. They also feature a breathable and weatherproof upper. The improved metal lace guides are ideal for ergonomic lace pressure.

The boots are lightweight and durable. They also feature removable insoles, Gaitor D ring, and toe protector, and NNN soles. They have a Dintex special membrane engineered with state-of-the-art technology guaranteed to keep you dry and comfortable.

The Dintex membrane also provides an impermeable layer to prevent water and wind from coming in. making them suitable for all weather conditions.

Features

  • Thinsulate lining
  • Quick-dry liner
  • Dintex membrane
  • Weatherproof upper

Pros

  • Compatible with any standard NNN binding system
  • Breathable
  • Lightweight
  • Durable

Cons

  • Little impact resistance

How long does cross country skiing take?

This depends on the distance and your skiing speed. However, the average time is between 4-5 hours for a distance of 3-12 miles. This is all dependent on the speed of the skier. Most advanced skiers can ski as fast as 15 mph, while the average recreational skiing pace is 7-10 mph.

Can you cross country ski with regular skis?

This depends on your expertise. Skis used for cross country skiing are roughly 10 centimeters longer than those used for alpine skiing. Advanced cross country skiers use regular skis as they are well versed in the art of taking off, braking, and turning and can perform just as well with traditional skis.

As a beginner, you would be better off investing in special cross country skis. This is because regular skis have a waxed base. On the other hand, cross country skis have a wax-free base, which helps the skier climb hills without slipping backward.

If you do not intend to pursue cross country skiing, you can hire skis for a start.

How many inches of snow do you need to cross country ski?

It depends on the terrain. If there are roots and rocks, you will need at least 6 inches of snow. However, you can ski on as little as 2-4 inches of snow for grass terrain. As a rule of thumb, at least 6-inches of snow is needed for a better cross country skiing experience.

How many calories do you burn when cross country skiing?

According to the Compendium of Physical Activities, a 200-pound cross country skier can burn up to 600 calories per hour when skiing at a speed of 2.5 mph, which is much lower than the average cross country skiing speed.

Conclusion

When shopping for cross country skis, you need to consider your weight and mastery level. This will determine the length of your skis as well as the stiffness of the camber. If in doubt, ask a seasoned cross country skier the best cross country skis for your skill level.